Its time for the working class to lead a new revolution!
“We are fighting for the complete liberation of our peoples, but we are not fighting to simply hoist a flag in our countries and to have a national anthem.”
While it is true that South Africa is a better place to live in than the situation faced by the majority during the apartheid era, but when it comes to the hard economic realities, there is no doubt that the situation facing the majority is much dire than it was during the apartheid era.
We are paying a terrible price for years of neoliberalism, corruption, mismanagement and incompetence and will continue to do so for years to come unless there is a drastic overhaul of the neoliberal policies that have reproduced the quadruple crisis facing the black majority.
In economic terms, it is the former white oppressors who have more reasons to celebrate freedom than the oppressed and exploited black majority.
Enough with unemployment!
Unemployment at 37.0% is the sixth highest in the world. At 52% for the youth aged below 25 years, our country holds the number one spot in the world as a whole. For black people, the unemployment rate is well over 40%. A right-wing economist who is the big supporter of the economic policies that have reproduced the crisis conceded “South Africa is one of the few countries in the world where there are more adults not at work than adults at work.”
The levels of unemployment explain why there is a rise in the number of young people who are seeking to escape from this dire situation by turning to drug and alcohol abuse and crime. This leads to poor, working-class communities becoming battlegrounds for armed confrontations between rival gangs controlled by drug lords.
Still more job losses are coming, with threatened retrenchments in Eskom, the mines in particular the coal mines in Mpumalanga as a result of privatisation of energy and the introduction of IPPS, the SABC (certainly after the elections), Standard Bank, ABSA, the public service and possibly SAA and Edcon and even in the civil service.
Even if President Ramaphosa creates the 275 000 he promised in his SONA, this will be below the 2% annual growth in the size of the labour market, which means over 400 000 new job seekers every year.
Land must be repossessed!
The 1913 Natives Lands Act, legalised the theft of land by prohibiting Africans from owning, buying or renting land in 93% of South Africa despite being the majority were confined to ownership of just 7% the land.
It is a scandal that 25 years after the ANC came to power in 1994, its leaders have until now done very little to implement programmes to repossess the stolen land. In 1994, 87% of the land was owned by whites, and only 13% by blacks yet by 2012 land reform had transferred only 7.95 million hectares into black ownership, equivalent to just 7.5% of formerly white-owned land.
More people live in poverty than ever before!
As we mark the first quarter of the century governed by a new constitution, 55% of the population or 30.4 million of the 55 million is living in poverty! 28.4% is at risk of going hungry; 26% are hungry daily; and half of all South Africans do not have sufficient access to affordable, nutritious and safe food to meet the basic health requirements.
Also, malnutrition is the major underlying cause of death in 64% of deaths of children under the age of 5; one in five children are stunted because of malnutrition, and many more are deficient in the minerals and vitamins necessary for optimal development.
Yet South Africa is officially food secure, i.e. it produces enough food to feed the entire population. But every year R61.5billion worth of food is wasted along the production to consumption chain.
We have more inequalities than ever before!
The reality is that the economic inequalities we inherited from apartheid not only remain but also have widened. Wealth is even more unequally shared than in 1994 and is now higher than anywhere else in the world. The top 1% of South Africans own more than 70% of the country’s wealth.
Education is in a mess and is reproducing poverty and joblessness!
Education remains even more starkly divided between well-endowed private schools for a wealthy, mainly white minority, while most public schools for the black majority are under-staffed, ill equipped and often structurally derelict.
A staggering 78% of grade 4 children can’t read for meaning in any language, and 61% of grade 5s can’t do basic maths. This inequality is widened by the fact that government spending on basic education per learner in real terms declined between 2008 and 2016 by 8%.
The number of matrics who drop out before sitting their exams has also been increasing.
This lack of qualifications and skills, however, is only a part of the problem, since thousands of matriculants, and even graduates, remain unemployed.
The fall in state funding helps to explain the decline in the quality of basic education. The average class size of grade 4 classes in South Africa was 40 in 2011 but increased to 45 in 2016 and class sizes increased in the schools with 60% of the most impoverished learners, from 41 to 48 per class over the same period.
President Ramaphosa had to concede that there are still 4000 schools using pit latrines.
Our Public Hospitals have become mortuaries!
Public hospitals and clinics suffer the same fate. Most struggles with over-worked staff, lack of drugs and long queues for treatment, while the rich can pay for high-quality private service.
The Life Esidimeni tragedy resulted in the deaths of at least 144 psychiatric patients after they were transferred from the institution to several unlicensed, unqualified and underfunded NGOs to save money.
The government says there are too many public servants and that wages are too high! It denies that 30 000 workers are to be retrenched but has not repudiated Pravin Gordhan and Tito Mboweni’s statements that the government is pressing ahead with voluntary severance packages to reduce the wage bill.
We demand accessible, affordable and safe public transport – away with etolls!
Public Transport is almost non-existent! The same double standards in public transport are illustrated in a horrific report of a train journey from Philippi to Cape Town: “No-one can afford to miss the 4 pm train into town, because they have no idea if or when there will be another. In any case, standing alone after dark at Philippi station is the surest way to get robbed, or worse. Workers are dying in Gauteng due to avoidable train accidents! While we demand public transport, we reject that government is not subsidising the taxi industry, which transports 60% of workers and yet spends billions subsidising private bus companies.
Our roads like our hospitals are death traps killing 45 people every day.
We demand decent houses next to our places of work and closer to economic opportunities!
A 77.7% of South Africans lives in formal dwellings, 85.4% have access to electricity, 89.9 % have access to piped water and 66.4 % partially own/own dwellings
However, 14% still live in informal dwellings, i.e. slums, backyard dwellings. Current backlog is about 2.3 million houses, and that backlog is growing at 178 000 units per year!
Crime is out of control and our justice system is also dysfunctional
The rich can pay for private security companies and entrance barriers, while poor communities are held hostage to criminal gangs and drug dealers who destroy the lives of young addicts who then terrorise communities. Fifty-seven people are killed every day. The number of women murdered increased even faster, by 11%, the number of boys by 20%, and girls by 10%. Thirty-nine thousand seven hundred eighty-five rapes are reported annually or 109 every day, which is highly likely to be an underestimate given the notoriously low level of reporting and prosecution of this vile crime. According to the police’s statistics, the conviction rate for rape was 11.5%. Other estimates in 2014 put it is as low as 10%.
Corruption is robbing generations to come of their future
All these problems for the majority of South Africans have been aggravated by the epidemic of corruption, theft and fraud by public officials, SOE executives, political leaders and their cronies in the private sector. This has cost the country an estimated R27 billion a year.
Moreover, every year big business, mostly transnational corporations, illicitly deposit hundreds of billions of dollars out of the reach of SARS and other regulators. 80% of this is estimated to be the proceeds of tax evasion and laundered corporate transactions.
When load shedding began in 2008, it was a national emergency. When it happened again in 2014 and 2016, it was a national disaster. In 2018 and 2019 it has become a national catastrophe!
Don’t privatise energy, water, education, communications, and healthcare!
We will fight against the unbundling of Eskom. We will continue to demand that energy including renewables must be in the hands of the people as a whole.
The people who have a good story to tell are generally the white population that oppressed the black majority under apartheid and colonialism. Black people, in particular, the black working class, now 25 years after democracy are still waiting for the promise of the Freedom Charter economic demands that promised that the land and wealth should be shared. Instead of doing this the ANC government has now launched a pointed attack on the working class by undermining the right to strike and entrenching apartheid and colonial through the introduction of the R20 an hour national minimum wage. More workers are being outsourced and trapped in inferior jobs than ever before. South Africa is moving further and further away from the concept of decent work.
Based on these facts, how could anyone celebrate freedom if it produces these results?
“Always bear in mind that the people are not fighting for ideas, for the things in anyone’s head. They are fighting to win material benefits, to live better and in peace, to see their lives go forward, to guarantee the future of their children.”